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25 of the Most Unusual Trophies in College Football

by: Esteban On  Friday, October 26, 2012

unusual weird college football trophies

Every sport at every level has its cherished rivalries, and often those rivalries turn into major events. In baseball, for example, you have the Yankees-Red Sox and the Cubs-Cardinals. In the NFL you have the Cowboys-Redskins and the Giants-Eagles. In soccer you have Real Madrid-Barcelona and Lazio-Roma. And in college basketball you have Duke-North Carolina and Syracuse-Georgetown.

And that’s just to name a few off the top of my head.

However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say no sport does rivalries like college football. Why do I say this? Because in college football practically every single rivalry—no matter how small and insignificant the schools involved—has its own trophy. And I’m not talking bowls or plates or jugs made of gold or silver or crystal. That would be boring. I’m talking bizarre artifacts and relics from a bygone era, like spittoons and axes and howitzers. (Yes, howitzers.) And I don’t know about you, but I think this is awesome.

So today, as we wrap up the week, we’re going to get you pumped for another great Saturday of gridiron action with this list of 25 unusual college football trophies. And you won’t find them ranked by the significance of the rivalry. Instead, they’re judged strictly on the weirdness of the actual trophy.

So let’s get started, shall we?

25. The Fremont Cannon

25 fremont cannon trophy - battle for nevada (nevada wolf pack vs. unlv rebels)

Teams: Nevada Wolf Pack vs. UNLV Rebels

Year Introduced: 1970

“Oh, what’s that? You’re schools play for a crystal bowl? That’s cute. We play for a working cannon.”

Yes, theoretically, this is a working replica of a 19th century Howitzer. The team in possession of the trophy used to fire it each time they scored during the rivalry game. However, both schools agreed not to fire it anymore after 2000, because it was getting pretty costly to maintain.

24. Land of Lincoln Trophy

24 land of lincoln trophy - stove pip top hat (illinois fighting illini vs. northwestern wildcats)

Teams: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Year Introduced: 2009

“Hey, I was the 16th President of the United States, I ended slavery, and I won the Civil War, keeping this great Union together. But, yeah, that’s cool, honor me with a trophy featuring a bronze replica of my f–king hat.” -Ghost of Abraham Lincoln

23. Wagon Wheel Trophy

23 wagon wheel trophy (akron zips vs. kent state golden flashes)

Teams: Akron Zips vs. Kent State Golden Flashes

Year Introduced: 1946

You would think a wagon wheel trophy would date back to the 1800s or something. You know, when people used wagons. But no.

22. The Little Brown Jug


Teams: Michigan Wolverines vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Year Introduced: 1903

Was there some sort of jug shortage in 1903 that would have made an earthenware jug a special prize? In any case, this is actually the oldest rivalry trophy in college football.

21. The Keg of Nails

21 keg of nails trophy (cincinnati bearcats vs. louisville cardinals)

Teams: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Louisville Cardinals

Year Introduced: 1929

Legend has it that the exchange of this trophy was initiated by the schools’ fraternities, the idea being that whoever won the football game was “tough as nails.”

Leave it to frat boys to fight over a keg.

20. Palladium Trophy

20 palladium trophy - battle for the palladium (troy trojans vs. middle tennessee blue raiders)

Teams: Troy Trojans vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Year Introduced: 2003

To understand this one, you have to know your ancient Greek mythology. You see, the Palladium was wooden statue that supposedly fell from the heavens and was kept in the Temple of Athena in the city of Troy. According to legend, during the Trojan war, soothsayers foretold that as long as the statue remained within the city of Troy, the city would not fall. But, wouldn’t you know it, the wily Odysseus, “raider” of cities, stole the statue. And, yeah, Troy fell.

So now you get it: the Troy Trojans versus the Middle Tennessee Raiders? I guess some prof in the classics department came up with this one.

19. Paddlewheel Trophy


Teams: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

Year Introduced: 2005

This trophy commemorates the olden days when the best way to get from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati was on a paddlewheel boat traveling on the mighty Ohio River. Of course, it only dates back to 2005, when Cincinnati joined the Big East. Before that, the two schools had only ever played each other five times.

18. The Megaphone Trophy

18 megaphone trophy (notre dame fighting irish vs. michigan state spartans)

Teams: Michigan State vs. Notre Dame

Year Introduced: 1949

Though Notre Dame’s rivalry with Michigan is probably more famous, it ain’t got no trophy.

17. The Telephone Trophy

17 telephone trophy (missouri tigers vs. iowa state cyclones) weird college football trophies

Teams: Missouri Tigers vs. Iowa State Cyclones

Year Introduced: 1959

This trophy was created in 1959 to commemorate a mix-up involving the telephone lines that ran from the field to the coaches boxes at Iowa State’s stadium. (Apparently the lines were crossed.) Of course, this rivalry has gone the way of the Dodo now that Mizzou has moved to the SEC. So I guess Missouri gets to keep the trophy forever.

16. Milk Can Trophy

16 milk can trophy - battle of the milk can (boise state broncos vs. fresno state bulldogs) weird college football trophies

Teams: Boise State Broncos vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

Year Introduced: 2006

You can thank “Big Dairy” for this one. Seriously. Both football programs are sponsored by local dairy groups, and it was their idea to use a milk can as the trophy.

15. Floyd of Rosedale

15 floyd of rosedale trophy (iowa hawkeyes vs. minnesota golden gophers) weird college football trophies

Teams: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Year Introduced: 1935

This trophy was inspired by a 1935 wager made between the Governor of Minnesota, Floyd Olson, and the Governor of Iowa, Clyde Herring. The stakes? The loser would have to deliver a prize hog from his state to the winner’s gubernatorial office in person. So when Minnesota won, Herring obtained a pig from Rosedale Farms in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and personally delivered it to Floyd Olson in Minnesota.

14. Illibuck

14 illibuck trophy (illinois fighting illini vs. ohio state buckeyes) weird college football trophies

Teams: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Year Introduced: 1925

The original trophy was a real life turtle, chosen to symbolize what they were hoping would be a long life for their rivalry. When the turtle kicked the bucket in 1927, they switch to wooden replicas. (There have been 10 so far. Wood isn’t very durable.)

13. The Bayou Bucket

13 bayou bucket trophy (houston cougars vs. rice owls) weird college football trophies

Teams: Houston Cougars vs. Rice Owls

Year Introduced: 1974

One of Houston’s nicknames is the Bayou City, since it sits at the confluence of two bayous. And since both of these schools are located in Houston…you get the idea.

12. Paul Bunyan Trophy

12 Paul Bunyan Trophy - Sibling Rivalry (Michigan Wolverines vs. Michigan State Spartans) weird college football trophies

Teams: Michigan Wolverines vs. Michigan State Spartans

Year Introduced: 1953

They call this one the Sibling Rivalry, and they fight for a statue of mythical lumberjack Paul Bunyan. (The timber industry is big in Michigan.)

11. The Paul Bunyan Axe

11 Paul Bunyan Axe (Wisconsin Badgers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers) weird college football trophies

Teams: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Year Introduced: 1948

Every state in the northern Midwest wants to be associated with Paul Bunyan apparently.

Interestingly, this wasn’t the first trophy for this rivalry. At first they played for a slab of bacon, which was introduced in 1930. (No, really.) But that was replaced with the much more awesome giant axe in 1948.

10. The Bonze Boot

10 Bronze Boot Trophy - Border War (Wyoming Cowboys vs. Colorado State Rams) weird college football trophies

Teams: Wyoming Cowboys vs. Colorado State Rams

Year Introduced: 1968

They call this rivalry, cleverly enough, “The Border War.” (At least the trophy is original.)

9. Chief Caddo

9 Chief Caddo Trophy (Northwestern State Demons vs.  Stephen F. Austin State Lumberjacks) weird college football trophies

Teams: Northwestern State Demons vs. Stephen F. Austin State Lumberjacks

Year Introduced: 1961

The Stephen F. Austin State Lumgerjacks? That can’t be a real school.

8. The Golden Hat Trophy

8 Golden Hat Trophy - Red River Rivalry (Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners) weird college football trophies

Teams: Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Year Introduced: 1941

Who needs Missouri and Nebraska? As long at the Big 12 has Texas and Oklahoma and their awesome ten-gallon golden hat trophy, they’ll be just fine.

And yes, that comes off the base and the winners do put it on.

7. The Old Oaken Bucket

7 old oaken bucket trophy (indiana hoosiers vs. purdue boilermakers) weird college football trophies

Teams: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Purdue Boilermakers

Year Introduced: 1925

This trophy didn’t even arise spontaneously. In 1925, the Chicago chapters of the alumni associations of IU and Purdue got together and came up with this trophy. Why? Because “an old oaken bucket [is] the most typical Hoosier form of trophy”…apparently.

6. The Old Brass Spittoon

6 old brass spittoon tropnhy (indiana hoosiers vs. michigan state spartans) weird college football trophies

Teams: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans

Year Introduced: 1950

If you ask me, the teams that loses should be the ones who have to take the object that used to be used to collect chewing tobacco spit.

5. The Crab Bowl

5  crab bowl trophy - crab bowl classic (maryland terrapins vs. navy midshipmen) weird college football trophies

Teams: Maryland Terrapins vs. Navy Midshipmen

Year Introduced: 2010

In case you didn’t realize it, in Maryland they are pretty crazy about their crabs.

4. The Golden Screwdriver

4 golden screwdriver trophy (hawaii vs. fresno state) weird college football trophies

Teams: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

Year Introduced: 1996

Obviously these two programs didn’t have much money in their budgets for a big fancy trophy, so they just made one out of some crap they had lying around.

3. The Jeweled Shillelagh

3  jeweled shillelagh trophy (USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish) weird college football trophies

Teams: USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Year Introduced: 1952

Am I the only one who thinks this one looks like a…oh, nevermind.

2. The Iron Skillet

2-iron-skillet-trophy-battle-for-the-iron-skillet-tcu-horned-frogs-vs.-smu-mustangs college football trophies

Teams: TCU Horned Frogs vs. SMU Mustangs

Year Introduced: 1950s

Legend has it this one came about when a TCU fan spotted a SMU fan frying frog legs outside the stadium before a game. The TCU fan made a bet: TCU wins, they get the pan and the frog legs; SMU wins, they keep them. Of course, TCU won, and the skillet has been passed back and forth ever since. (Well, not the skillet, but a skillet.)

1. The Bones

1 the bones trophy - battle for the bones (uab blazers vs. memphis tigers) weird college football trophies

Teams: UAB Blazers vs. Memphis Tigers

Year Introduced: 2006

Leave it to two schools from Memphis and Birmingham to come up with a trophy more befitting a rib cook-off than a college football game.